AMES — Jake Hummel wanted to know the answer just as bad as the 62,000 fans packed in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday.
Why can't Iowa State execute when it matters most?
Four turnovers — three in the third quarter —, 3 for 11 on third down and a slew of critical errors, all ended up as Iowa State's sixth straight loss at the hands of its in-state rivals in one of the biggest CyHawk games in history.
The sixth-straight loss ties for the second longest streak (1916-1933) in the rivalry's history.
But Hummel, one of three senior linebackers for the Cyclones, wasn't sure why the No. 9 Cyclones failed to get the job done — all while shooting itself repeatedly in the foot along the way.
“I don’t know," Hummel said when asked why the Cyclones lacked precision against the Hawkeyes on Saturday. "We know how to prepare for football games, lot of veteran guys on this team. We know how to prepare for football games. I think maybe we’re not in that mid-season form in some area, maybe that’s where we are failing somewhere along the line.”
Hummel said Iowa State felt good at halftime after the offense drove down the field for its first and only touchdown of the day to walk into the locker room down 14-10. But even as the lead shrunk for the Hawkeyes, the Cyclones failed to create momentum to overcome their mistakes.
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, now 0-5 against the Hawkeyes, put the 10-point loss and the disappointment felt in the fanbase on his shoulders.
Campbell said leading up to Saturday's high-stakes game, he was unable to prepare Iowa State enough to win over the Hawkeyes.
Iowa scored 20 of its 27 points off turnovers, including 13 points in the second half on just 23 total yards of offense. Since 2016, Iowa State has lost the turnover margin to Iowa 0-8. Not a recipe for a win against your arch rival, or throughout the course of the season, according to Campbell.
“Somewhere along the line, I failed this team to be prepared for the moment," Campbell said after Saturday's loss. "I think our lack of execution really falls on my shoulders, so whatever I have to do to get our team swung around, especially the lack of efficiency on the offensive side of the football, the last two games we’ve seen similar patterns.”
The lack of execution was clear on offense, with the Cyclones getting three turnovers out of Brock Purdy, who was later benched for redshirt freshman Hunter Dekkers with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Purdy finished his day 13-27, with 138 yards and three interceptions.
The poor performance and attention to detail wasn't just found in the passing attack, as the Cyclones' Heisman hopeful Breece Hall rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also fumbled at the Iowa State four-yard line which lead to an Iowa scoop-and-score. Saturday was the first time in Hall's career he's rushed for under 70 yards in consecutive games since the final two games of his sophomore season in 2019.
Campbell said the critical errors and lack of production isn't on the likes of Hall, Purdy or the rest of the team. It's on him. But when the Cyclones fail to complete their assignments and do their jobs, success becomes even harder at a place where winning in the margins is crucial.
“As I told our team and I’ve said this, ‘When we’ve played really great in these moments during our tenure here we’ve had great calm, we’ve had great clarity to do our job and most importantly we had great execution," Campbell said.
“Unfortunately, I would tell you we didn’t have that today."
The Hawkeyes' took a 7-3 lead thanks to Purdy's first interception in the second quarter on a Tyler Goodson touchdown run. After Spencer Petras connected on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Jones, the Hawkeyes never looked back.
Instead, they let Iowa State hand the game over.
Iowa State's first drive out of halftime resulted in a punt, the start of what would end up being a disaster of a third quarter. After the Hawkeyes were stopped on their first possession of the third quarter, Tarique Milton was back to receive the punt. But the punt wasn't corralled by Milton, rather, it bounced its way 30 yards down the field to the Iowa State 25-yard line. The Cyclones were now backed up to begin their second drive of the half.
But what happened when Iowa State began the drive backed up in the shadow of its own end-zone? It was more setbacks.
Purdy lost two yards on a rush, then was sacked for a eight-yard loss, only to be sacked on third down leading to a punt. And Iowa returned it 24 yards after two broken tackles to set up well past midfield. The game went out of hand from there.
Enyi Uwazurike said the end result of Saturday was a disappointment in itself, but the fact that the Cyclones cost themselves chances hurts even more.
The senior defensive lineman finished with four tackles and said the setback of Saturday's defeat is a challenge, but not one the Cyclones aren't used to. They remember how they began the 2020 season, or 2019, or 2018. Uwazurike said the veteran leadership in the locker room will have to step up to get things back on track. And he knows they're capable of getting there.
No finger-pointing. No offense vs defense. The mistakes have to turn into lessons. There's no other option now.
“Adversity’s nothing but help for us," Uwazurike said.